Three, two, one... action!

Who's making the news these days? A group of retirees who meet in Ashkelon twice a month.

filming 88 248 (photo credit: Maxine Liptzen Dorot)
filming 88 248
(photo credit: Maxine Liptzen Dorot)
What do these people have in common: a retired elementary school principal, the former head of the Ashkelon Marina, several retired school secretaries and teachers, a retired canning factory manager, a chief maintenance mechanic and a police officer? If you guessed that they're all retired - well, you're right, but the real answer is that they're all part of a workshop for seniors that teaches the art of television production and produces monthly magazine shows that are broadcast all over the country. The group of approximately 25 people meets twice a month at a senior citizens' center in Ashkelon and is funded by the city Welfare Department's senior citizens' budget. During the first part of each two-hour session, they learn all the skills needed to put on a TV show from start to finish - producing, directing, sound, editing, shooting and preparing scripts. The second half of the lesson is devoted to planning their next shows and getting advice and help on the shows in production. "Community television is, in my opinion, the best way to help retired people stay involved and active, and I enjoy working with them immensely," says the workshop's instructor, Ishai Boneh, 63, from Kibbutz Givat Brenner. "Pupils disappear from your life, but these people stay. I have some members who started with me in 1990, and today they're over 80 years old and still going strong. In fact, all of my people are very active and highly enthusiastic. They're reliable, hardworking and totally dedicated to making the best shows that they possibly can." Boneh has been teaching communications since 1990, when cable television first found its way to Israel. The early cable "shows" were closed-circuit and aired in kibbutzim around the country, he says. At that time, children were moving out of the children's houses into their parents' homes, and people stopped attending kibbutz meetings at night. To keep up with the goings-on in the kibbutz and to be able to vote knowledgeably on kibbutz issues, meetings were broadcast to all the members' homes via cable. Nearly 20 years later, almost every home in the country is hooked up to one of the country's major cable operators, and the Community Television Network (Channel 98) broadcasts throughout the country. Boneh regularly gives workshops in cities nationwide from Ashkelon to Hadera, including Rishon Lezion, Ra'anana, Beit Shemesh and Yehud. The magazine show, Window on Ashkelon, is made up of segments ranging from three to 25 minutes. Each complete show takes up to two weeks to prepare, while news segments are done in half the time. The show is broadcast on Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. and repeated on Mondays at noon; the same magazine is broadcast throughout the month, from the 15th to the 15th. According to Boneh, the seniors come up with the ideas for the monthly show themselves. "Just to show you how varied our reports are, one was about the neglected state of the cemetery here, and I'm proud to say that as a result of that show, the problem was solved almost immediately," he recounts. "Another show followed an elderly patient as he went through an angioplasty procedure in the local hospital. We did a show proudly featuring the extremely high quality of Ashkelon's drinking water, one on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder aired right before the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and a very moving show about the Iraqi community in Ashkelon. We report on health concerns, financial matters, people, places, education, welfare, trips, culture, living in a city that's on the receiving end of missiles... we run the gamut. "The members choose a subject, prepare their shooting plan, sign up for a camera and go out and film," he continues. "We have a resident editor, Gil Haim, who oversees the final editing, and I check and double-check every segment before it goes on the air." Miki Rozen, grandmother of four, is a retired early childhood special education teacher who heard about the group from a neighbor. "After I retired, I looked for something to do that would allow me to learn something totally different from what I had been doing the last 30 [years]. This sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to learn something I had no prior experience in," she said. "The group has given me so much in the three years I've been a part of it, and I feel I've given something back to the community in turn." Not only that, she says, "it's been fun. I've met new people, learned new skills, and for me that's the best part... I'm constantly learning, not only about television production, but also about the topics I cover. This group is rewarding for me in every way." Mira Efrati is a newcomer to Ashkelon, having moved from the Beersheba area, where she was director of external studies for Ben-Gurion University. "I'm new here and wanted to do something different from what I've done before," she says. "I was interested in the chance to learn something new and meet new people. I heard about the group from a woman I had just met and decided to give it a try. I've met new people and am learning something I'd never even thought of doing. It's been a wonderful opportunity for me." Yehoshua Tzadok is a former maintenance man for the country's nuclear power plant in Dimona. Upon retiring, he, too, looked for something special to do. He had heard about a community TV group through a friend, and although Yehoshua lives in Ashdod, he's been coming to the Ashkelon group regularly. He is one of eight men in the workshop. "I look forward to coming to Ashkelon every two weeks to hone my newly learned craft. I've been doing this for a few years now and especially enjoy filming and editing, and discovered I'm pretty good at it. I enjoy the challenge of making a good report and am happy to be with friends who share similar interests," he says. Boneh says his "most challenging task is to teach the same subject in a different way. And even though I'm a veteran teacher, I'm still learning new things all the time. My students teach me, and their enthusiasm never wanes. They come to the meetings in cold weather, on rainy days, on hot and muggy days, and when there's a threat of missiles falling, they show up. They inspire me!" All the group's members concur that opening up a Window on Ashkelon is a fun learning experience that helps keep them young and involved.